Nyesha Arrington, 'Top Chef' Contestant, At Sunday Dinner
It's business as usual back at the Wilshire Restaurant where Nyesha Arrington staked her claim as one of the most promising chefs to watch in 2011. After a run on Season 9 of Bravo's "Top Chef" (where's she's still battling for a comeback in the show's new "Last Chance Kitchen" challenge), she's been refining menus and shopping the Los Angeles farmers' market for ingredients like black radishes -- a nice add-on to smoked salmon, she says -- black kale and purple Brussels sprouts.
"I go to the farmers' market and get stopped and it's weird. I'm just a chef, you know? So it's funny when people know my whole story," Arrington says.
WATCH: Nyesha battles it out for a chance to return to the "Top Chef" competition.
Aside from the props she's been getting on the professional level and the shout-outs she's adjusting to on routine shopping trips, Arrington's new-found celebrity hasn't changed much in the way of her day-to-day life. It also hasn't changed the way she spends her one day off each week.
"I try to really decompress on my days off, because generally it's one day," she says.
Though snowboarding would normally be her pastime of choice this time of year, an activity Arrington says she adores and did avidly during a stint as a personal chef in Aspen, Colo., California's mild weather lends itself to different kinds of outdoor pursuits. For Arrington it's surfing, cooking for friends and hanging with her black lab, Samson, that make for a perfect weekend day.
"Me and my buddies try to get together and cook a family meal for everyone in the neighborhood. That's definitely why I live in Venice -- it's a very communal area. We have community gardens and a lot of my friends belong to that, so they'll bring over fruits and vegetables. It's a good relationship -- they bring stuff and I cook it," she says.
Arrington's family-style dinners have grown from roughly six people to an all-out neighborhood affair. "We try to do different themes every week, like ravioli day or different gratins," she says. "It's the way food is supposed to be enjoyed -- with friends and family in a beautiful setting."
On this week's menu, Arrington's whipping up freshly baked bread, bacon green beans with orange zest, a roasted beet salad fresh from the farmers' market, her signature Wilshire burger and a dish of thinly sliced marinated beef called bulgogi, a nod to her family's Korean heritage.
The dishes define Arrington's "rustic elegant" approach to food and the style she hopes to be known for one day. "Properly executed food that is delicious. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel. I just want to make sure that if it's going to be something basic, that everything is at peak season and that it's the best quality. That's where my cooking style is going."